Empowering Coaches Step-By-Step

Your Defense Doesn’t Work in Youth Football, Why Not?

Be Careful What You Give Credence to in Youth Football

 Unfortunately many youth football coaches confuse a defensive “alignment” for a defense. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard coaches insist “I tried the 4-4 last year and it didn’t work” or “I tried the 6-2 last season but we couldn’t stop the sweep”. When I hear comments like these,  I know the coach talking doesn’t understand the basics of defense. A 4-4 or 6-2 simply denotes how many players are aligned on the line of scrimmage and linebacker spots. The numbers mean nothing more, they don’t denote a defense at all.

 All 4-4 alignments are not alike, are the linebackers stacked? Are the defensive tackles lined head up on the guards? outside shoulder? How about the defensive ends?

A 6-2 Wide Tackle Six alignment is much different than a 6-2 Split Six alignment or the 6i alignment. They all have 6 linemen on the line of scrimmage and 2 linebackers, but the base alignment is much different in each. In fact so is the entire defense.

 Then there is the coverage question? Not all 6-2 or 4-4 defenses use the same pass coverage, are you man, zone or a combination? How do the force and alley players play in your defense? Mine play much different than most.

 What is the base key and base responsibility for each player in the defense based on those reads? Please don’t tell me it is “make the tackle”.  If that is the only key and base responsibility you teach your players, prepare for getting a bundle of points scored on you each week. What are your run fits?

 What type of player do you have at each position? The 6-2 defense I use has a much different player description for defensive end and defensive guard positions than any 6-2 I’ve ever seen.

 What is the base technique each of the players in each of the positions in your defense going to employ? What base stunts and blitzes do you run and why? What formations require adjustments to your base defense? Which formations give you such an advantage that they prompt you to go to an automatic stunt?

 What tendencies are you tracking on defense? How and when do you use that data to your advantage in youth football?

 How and where do you get minimum play players in your defense where they can add value on every snap and execute a technique or approach where they can also have individual success every play? The Miami 4-3 you are copying is used by a college team that could care less if all their kids got into a game. As a youth coach, we care about that.

 So the next time someone tells you they are running a 4-4, 5-3 or 6-2 without saying what type of flavor it is, what the coverage is, what the force is, what the alley player is, what the base alignment is for each position, what the base reads are for each position, what the base techniques are for each position, what  your run fits are, what type of player you are looking for at each position, what the base responsibilities are for each position and what their base stunts and “tells” are, the info you are getting from that person is going to suspect at best.

 An alignment is not a defense and it never has been.

Unfortunately there are defenses like this posted on the internet. They  leave out 95% of what a youth football coach needs to run a fundamentally sound defense: http://www.ehow.com/how_4704_run-football-defense.html

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12 Comments

  1. Jeff Stewart

    I am using your system for our team. I only have 17 thrid grade boys. Two of them tackel well in the 3 slot drill / open feild drill. The next Three top finisers are small and are overwhelmed at CB by big fast backs. I have a big kid who also plays LB for me and tackel but he is not an ideal LB. I put him end so I can move my weaker LB to CB on the wide side. We are having trouble with the sweep alot. Ends keep taking on blocks instead of shedding them. LB’s out of place. I tell them to watch the ball and follow it but they still end up out of posistion. As mentioned before the CB’s are a non factor right now. The schools we are playing have multiple third grade teams ect. I hate to say it but I am getting frustrated. I bought ” winning youth footbal ” as well as the DVD’s ” develop a smothering D ” and the 2 disc ” running the single wing” . I have watched them many times and take notes. Mabey there are things I am missing. The Defensive ends box great when the heat is off but when the play comes at them they keep getting neutralized. Should I stunt my ends and CB’s to eliminate as much space as I can? Any help would be great.
    Jeff Stewart
    3rd Grade Aves
    Cinn Oh.

    Reply
  2. Dave Cisar

    Coach,

    The ends are not supposed to make the play on the sweep, they are there simply to force the play inside to your linebackers, corners and safety. That is why we tell you to put a very average but obedient player there. His only job is to be a stopper at the deepest back to force the sweep inside of him.

    I never put big kids at backer, those are defensive tackles per the book. My 2 backers are the moblile kids that finished 1-2 in the tackling contest eval, again per the book.

    Corners are not secondary force players, they fill inside the boxing defensive ends. Your corners have to read their reciever key, if he blocks down, reaches, our stalks, they come hard again inside the boxing ends. That is all in the book as well.

    If you stunt both your ends and corners you are even more vulnerable to the sweep. The book clearly states when it makes sense to use corner stunts.

    Reply
  3. coach D

    I’m using the WT6 as my base defense for 7-8 yr olds. It has worked really well. Our team has 35 kids on it and we have made it to the playoffs that start in 3 weeks. We have some very athletic kids on our team and some kids thats not as mature. I was thinking about installing a little of the Viper defense for the athletic kids and having 2 defenses for the playoffs. I was wanting to know is this a good idea or should i just stick to the WT6. The reason i say this is because in our association we are not allowed to film each other during the season but we can in the playoffs. Also if we make it to the title game the other team can scheme against us and i thought if we played the first game of the playoffs in the WT6 then come out in the title game in the viper would it confuse them and disrupt their scheme?

    Reply
    1. davecisar

      Coach,

      As long as you all have the WT6 perfected and are consistently doing well with it, at this late date I don’t see a problem with it. However make sure you have your Minimum plays worked out, if you have a minimum play rule in your league. The WT6 is VERY minimum player friendly, the Viper IS NOT.

      Reply
  4. Coach D

    My team will be playing a team tonight that runs a spread offense utalizing 4 receivers which takes one of my backs and saftey into man coverage away from the base WT6 formation. I want to put pressure on the QB but only have one back for claw/razor. Do you think I should ignore the deepest receiver after seeing if the qb has a strong arm or not and use a gunner at times for the 7th grade level?

    Reply
    1. davecisar

      Coach,
      I would not, especially at the 7th grade level. In 2010 my 5-6th grade team threw for 18 TDs, we would make you pay for that type of approach.

      You have 6 pass rushers with at least 1 maybe 2 Defensive Tackles crashing based on if there is a Tight End or not to that side. Plenty of kids to get pressure on the QB with.

      Reply
  5. Coach D

    Coach C,
    My Defense is giving up 30 points a game. My kids are 12-14 years of age and play in the most competitive division we have in IL. We have been running the 53 with the DT aligned in the B Gap and DE aligned a shade off the shoulder of the TE. Every team has been pounding us off tackle. Out of the 11 kids I have playing Defense, about 3 of them are really athletic. The rest are moderate to good football players. We tried the 44 stack but it didnt work very well. What Defense do you suggest I try? Also our tackling has been poor, what drills do you suggest. Thanks

    Reply
    1. davecisar

      Coach,
      A defense isnt a formation. It’s about coverage, run fits, reads, base techs, responsibilities, then alignments. If you have a non athletic team that is weak or minimum player friendly you need a bend but don’t break defense. The youth version of the Wide Tackle Six we use is very good against the off-tackle and accomodates weaker players. Our version of the 4-4 would be a terrible fit for your team,

      Reply
  6. Scott

    I have run your WT6 for 5 years now and have had really good success. I box my ends and run it pretty much like you said in the book except we can’t blitz or stunt at the 7 – 9 year old level.

    This year, they instituted a no A-gap rule. You can’t line up there and you can’t go through there. It is really effecting our ability to use this defense. Most teams are pounding it down the middle because of the rules. I have considered switching to a 5-3 so I can have more support at the POA in the middle because I can’t send someone into the A gaps. Any thoughts? I have always respected you, and love the WT6, but we are getting hammered down the middle, and my DE’s are getting wasted. What do you think?
    Scott

    Reply
    1. davecisar

      Coach

      We have never boxed our ends, we get to deepest back keeping outside shoulder free and then squeeze.
      If you went to a 5-3 you would have a player in the middle playing the A gaps, so not sure how that would comply with those rules.
      For the 1% of youth teams which have a non A gap rule, you just align the NTs over the Guards and slant inside.
      I’m not sure how your DEs are “wasted”, every team has to protect their flanks.

      Reply
  7. Stuart Johnson

    Coach,

    I run the 6-2 and am getting ripped on the off-tackle. If I send the ends to the deepest back, don;t they run themselves out of the play?

    Reply
    1. davecisar

      Coach
      Not at all.
      The Defensive End is under control gets to deepest back and squeezes. You have the Defensive Tackle in the C gap, then the run fits by both the Linebacker and Corner.

      Reply

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